Don’t trust blood pressure devices

If your doctor has told you to keep an eye on your blood pressure, you may want to rethink how you do that.
A new study published by the Canadian Medical Association suggests devices found in pharmacies may not give accurate measurements.
The readings are too high for some, and too low for others. That could lead to unnecessary worry, or worse, false reassurance.

Researchers for Toronto’s Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre tested 108 machines by comparing their readings to laboratory-evaluated machines on the spot.

Machines perform poorly
The results, published in the latest edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, are a wake-up call for those people relying on those machines to track their pressure.

The machines didn’t even meet the minimum requirements of international standards, and they didn’t perform as well in the pharmacies as they did in labs.

“There could be a number of reasons for this,” says Dr. Anthony Graham, a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

“In a pharmacy, people rush in from the parking lot and plunk their arms in the machine,” says Graham. That couldead to a different reading than you would get sitting quietly in a doctor’s office.

Play reminder role
But Graham also says don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. He believes the visibility of those machines reminds people how important it is to know what their blood pressure is.

“You should know what your blood pressure is, and if it’s high, something should be done about it… just like every adult should know what their cholesterol is,” he says.

“High blood pressure leads to such things as stroke, kidney failure and heart failure,” says Graham. “It is described as our silent killer, in the sense that people don’t have symptoms of high blood pressure until they present with symptoms like a heart attack.”

Home cuffs available
That’s why it’s so important to be familiar with your numbers. Graham says people who have been using pharmacy machines should consider getting a cuff at home. There are home-testers available for under a hundred dollars.

He thinks that’s a small price to pay for such vital information.